December 18, 2012
I met David when I was living in Guatemala in 2003. He was one of a group of boys who lived in a park called Plaza Berlin at the southern end of the Avenue of the Americas in Guatemala City. Watched over by another street dweller, David and his friends made their home under a sidewalk and had their daily strategies for survival. I knew David through the efforts of a ministry to street kids that worked hard to reach out to these boys. David never left the streets, and I have continued to bump into him over the years as he has moved around Guatemala City.
Most recently, David became part of a group called "Los Peregrinos"...a group of drug addict street dwellers who make their living scavenging at the Guatemala City garbage dump. Every Monday evening, the members of Iglesia Bautista Cristo es el Camino have a meal and worship time for this group, trying to show a little bit of love to these men who long ago slipped through the last crack in their society and ended up at the dump. In the last couple of years, it was increasingly obvious that years of inhaling solvent were taking their toll. David grew weaker and thinner, constantly trembling due to the neurological damage from the drugs.
Yesterday, I got the news that David was dead. The story I heard was that he ate some food laced with poison. Was it murder, suicide, or an accident? I only know that it is tragic...and senseless.
I would like to say, "Please pray for David's family," but outside of a handful of street family and some caring people who have loved him over the years, he had nobody. From the world's perspective, David slipped from obscurity to oblivion. Most of the world won't care...or even notice that Guatemala has one less drug addict sleeping on the sidewalks outside of the garbage dump.
We have lost too many of our world's young people for senseless reasons. We are ALL precious in God's sight. I know that David had professed Christ as his savior, and even though he never escaped the material problems of his life, he did win the spiritual victory. In that final lonely moment, I know that David truly slipped from earthly obscurity to an eternal freedom in the presence of God. I rejoice in that, but I am once again convicted that those of us who are still on this side of eternity need to redouble our efforts to share the truth of the Gospel and to engage the spiritual and physical battle before us.
No matter how often we bathe or how well we dress, we are all God's street kids. We all hold onto things that are offensive in God's sight. Let's not fool ourselves. To see a young man like David is to look into a mirror. I am thankful that God didn't "step around me on the sidewalk." Instead, he saw me and reached down to help.
People ask, "Where is God in all of this?" I am convinced that God was with David every moment. The better question is this. Where are God's people?
Adios, David. I'll see you again.
January 6, 2013
POSTSCRIPT: I printed copies of photos of David from the 10 years that I knew him, and I shared those with some of his friends in Guatemala while I was there over Christmas and the new year. They remember him...and mourn. (Photo by Pastor Saul Pérez.)